By DIANE XAVIER
The Dallas Examiner
The Dallas City Council voted at its Oct. 23 meeting in favor of authorizing a one-year interlocal agreement with Texas A&M University College of Dentistry to administer the Clinical Dental Care Services Program in order to provide dental health services from Jan. 1 through Sept. 30, 2020 to low- to moderate-income seniors ages 60 and older that reside in the city of Dallas.
TAMCOD will provide these services at three locations, according to Assistant City Manager Nadia Chandler Hardy.
Those locations include North Dallas Shared Ministries located at 2875 Merrell Road, Agape Clinic located at 4104 Junius St., and beginning in 2020, South Dallas Dental Clinic at Hatcher Station Village at 4542 Scyene Road.
“The Senior Affairs Commission advocates for senior dental care as low-income seniors and seniors on fixed income are often unable to afford private dental care, but Medicare does not typically cover dental care services for seniors,” Hardy said. “Providers of dental services to low-income seniors state that they frequently encounter patients who have not been seen by a dentist in over 20 years, resulting in severe dental disease. The Senior Dental Program is likely the only option for many Dallas residents and the County does not provide these services.
The lack of proper dental care can lead to other health issues and advancing age puts senior residents at risk for oral health conditions. In additional to dental health, dental care appointments provide an opportunity to identify signs of other health issues in patients such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. In cases like these, the Clinical Dental Care Services Program provider, Texas A&M College of Dentistry is able to refer patients for low cost medical services near the dental clinics.”
Council member Cara Mendelsohn of District 12 supported this cause despite her concerns of all the funds not being used and shared some data with council members.
“The council allocated $375,000 to this program,” Mendelsohn said. “But only spent $246,000. This past year, the council allocated $400,000 and only $212,000 was spent. Also, the program had a 2,000-client target of which 1,700 were served. In patient visits, the target was 3,600 of which 1,900 were served and in procedures provided, 6,000 was the target of which 3,849 were served. So the program is not meeting the goals we are establishing.”
Mendelsohn asked what happens to those remaining dollars not spent on the dental services program.
Jessica Galleshaw, director of the Office of Community Care for the city, said she didn’t have that information, but offer other information regarding the program.
“Texas A&M College of Dentistry is really the only entity that does this type of service on that large of a scale,” Galleshaw said. “In having conversations with Texas A&M we identified that one of the biggest barriers for them to be able to serve the number of clients that they target, is that they have limitations in just being in the two physical clinics. There is just only so many chairs and only so many services and they are effectively maxed out. So when we talked about this program we didn’t want to tie up the full allocation that we knew wouldn’t be expended but we also learned from them that they are in the process of opening a new clinic in Southern Dallas and are going to be able to expand their capacity to serve.”
City Manager T.C. Broadnax explained where the unused funds would be allocated.
“In the end, it stays in the department until they in fact expend it and/or it falls to fund balance and then they come back at mid year or end of the year and appropriate the dollars in the budgets that were over budget and council approves that as well,” Broadnax said.
Council member Carolyn King Arnold also supported the services but was concerned about transportation issues and how seniors would be able to get to the facilities. The facilities are accessible by bus and light train stations for those that don’t drive.
“If you are not of the age of 70 or 80, we don’t really understand the impact of dental health on our lives,” Arnold said. “The failure to have adequate dental health maintenance can contribute to a lot of diseases and often times death. So, we want to be proactive and we have to sell this program because there is no way in the world we should have any money left. With all these seniors in the city of Dallas with needs, we shouldn’t have any money left. We have to take care of our business of marketing, change the way we give out our information so we can get the information to our seniors so they can have healthy teeth.”